Derek Anderson excellent in unlikely start for Panthers

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  • By Nick Shook NFL.com
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In a perfect world, every team would start its season at home, with the support of starved fanbases hungry for the start of another promising campaign. But of course, we need road teams to complete a matchup. Visitors won six of 13 games Sunday, and as it is with every game away from home, rarely is it ever easy. These three players made it look a little less difficult.

Greatest on the road ...

Derek Anderson, Carolina Panthers

Anderson hadn't sniffed the starting lineup since 2010, when he was the starter for the Arizona Cardinals. It was during that same season Anderson was caught laughing on the sidelines during a blowout loss to the 49ers on Monday Night Football, which spawned the memorable "that's fine" postgame press conference. That pretty much explained how Anderson's tenure with the Cardinals came to an end.

Since then, Anderson has disappeared to the sidelines with a headset and clipboard as a backup with Carolina, but when Panthers coach Ron Rivera made the tough decision to sit usual starter Cam Newton due to a rib injury, Anderson was forced into duty -- and he shined. Anderson completed 24 of 34 attempts for 230 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers earned a somewhat unlikely road victory at Tampa Bay in Week 1.

The 2007 Pro Bowl selection completed touchdown strikes of five yards to tight end Greg Olsen and 26 yards to rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to help Carolina build a 17-0 lead against the Buccaneers. Carolina's defense allowed two late touchdowns, but a fumble recovery sealed the victory for the Panthers, who were able to overcome the loss of its star, with much of the credit due to Anderson. It's likely the last start he'll see for a while -- provided Newton stays healthy -- but come December, Panther fans everywhere may be thanking their lucky stars Anderson was on the roster.

Also considered:

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans

Many viewed the 2014 season as Locker's last shot to hang onto a starting job in the NFL. After struggling to stay healthy and succeed on the field, new head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his vertical offense were seen as Locker's final hope. With one game complete, that might be what he needed.

After helping Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers turn in one of his best seasons in recent memory, Whisenhunt's influence could be seen on the Arrowhead Stadium field Sunday as Locker completed 22 of 33 attempts for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Tennessee controlled the game for all 60 minutes, and though Kansas City's defense is undoubtedly depleted after injuries to Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry and Mike DeVito, Locker was efficient in engineering scoring drives of 80, 60 and 51 yards. Locker also made sure to take advantage of the Chiefs' mistakes, leading two short drives that started in Kansas City territory and resulted in field goals. This could be the first of many more methodical performances for Locker and the Titans.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings controlled all three phases of their 34-6 victory over the Rams, but no one was more impressive than the second-year wide receiver. Patterson, long touted for his track-star speed, made plays with his hands and feet. The receiver caught three passes for 26 yards, but did most of his damage as a runner, taking three carries for 102 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings implemented an interesting wrinkle to their offense, lining Patterson up in the I-formation which resulted in a 67-yard scamper down the field for a score.

It could be the first of many long, open-field runs for Patterson, as he showed his elusiveness in avoiding six would-be-tacklers on the way to the endzone. He may have had two rushing scores had he not tripped up on a 23-yard end around. Either way, Patterson played a decisive role in a one-sided victory for Minnesota.

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